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Pacifica Spindrift’s “Inherit the Wind”–a take on the ‘trial of the century’ in a time and place not so far from our own

May 30, 2016

The many good things about Pacifica Spindrift’s new production “Inherit the Wind” (by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee), are amplified imperceptibly by the timely convergence of a classic script as relevant today when first produced in 1955, under the skilled hand of seasoned director Barbara Williams. The complex choreography of a large cast is anchored by some stellar performances in the roles of defense attorney Henry Drummond (Louis Schilling) and head prosecutor Matthew Harrison Brady (John Musgrave) in this courtroom drama based on a 1925 legal case once billed as “the trial of the century.” A substitute high school teacher was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school.

The trial itself is the battle of the forces of good and evil, of religion and science, of intellectual freedom versus faith-based certainty in the Bible as the source of ultimate truth. This conflict is as crucial in American beliefs today as it was when the play was introduced during the McCarthy era of the late 1950s, or the real trial on which it is based, the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925. Think of today’s climate-change deniers versus an overwhelming body of science. Or Wall Street versus common-sense middle-class economics. What, after all, can be taken for the source of a real and final truth in the origin, or in the destiny, of humanity? And if there are differences of opinion, how can they be resolved?

In the play, set in a fictional Hillsboro somewhere in the American South, a schoolteacher has been brought to trial for having taught Darwin’s Origin of Species to a classroom firmly in the grip of Bible-belt beliefs. The world was created, as they believe, at 23rd of October, 4004 B.C. at 9:00 a.m. Any other construct including the millions of years required to make a rock, or to evolve a human being, is heresy. There is a witch-hunt here, and the schoolteacher is the heretic.

An ingeniously spare set allows the town to share stage space with the courtroom where most of the drama takes place. There is room in the background for the large cast of churchgoing townspeople to hold a picnic or conduct a service where the fire-and-brimstone breathing preacher, the reverend Jeremiah Brown (Stanley Scheidlinger) stirs his congregation to a frenzy in anticipation of victory at the coming trial. In the courtroom, prosecutor Brady and the town D.A. (Storm Russell), with the ill-concealed support of the judge (Steve Schwartz) seem to hold all the cards. But Drummond, faced with the refusal of the court to allow any of his witnesses to take the stand, faces up to the deceit. Sparks fly, genuine sparks between these two men sparring in defense of the values each holds most dear, as the battle heats up. The tension is palpable. The outcome in doubt. There are personal stakes at risk—the preacher’s daughter Rachel (Lindsay Shulz) is in love with the heretic teacher, but knows not how to keep his and her father’s love. Her conflicted minutes in the witness stand, the statement of her loosened hair at the play’s conclusion, speak volumes about the transitions her character undergoes.

There is not a false moment in the production. Director Barbara Williams knows the play well, and knows what she wants to say with it, ably seconded by Assistant Director Mae Linh Fatum in the management and seamless choreography of the large cast. Special nod to Annette Abunda’s costume design for allowing the characters to be who they are, rural but not rubes, in a time and place not so far from our own.

Performances: May 20 to June 5, 2016
Fridays – 5/20, 5/27, 6/3 at 8PM
Saturdays – 5/21, 5/28, 6/4 at 8PM
Sundays – 5/22, 5/29, 6/5 at 2PM

At: 1050 Crespi Drive
Pacifica, California 94044
United States

Box Office: (650) 359-8002

Redwood Writers’ Conference, April 23, 2016: Don’t miss it!

April 4, 2016

I can’t praise the value of a writers’ conference to the life and work of anyone with a strong self-image as a writer. This will be the fourth Redwood Writers Conference I’ve attended, and every time I come away fully charged, greatly informed, energized and ready to hit the keys. There’s much more to it than just the new information on craft and genre that comes from the sessions—new business contacts, new friends, new energy. All in one day—Saturday April 23 2016, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.—and all for a remarkably modest cost, at the Flamingo Resort and Spa, 2777 Fourth St., Santa Rosa CA
Click here for Redwood Writers Conference home page.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Register here. Registration closes April 18th.

MORNING KEYNOTE ADDRESS: “Storytelling: Lies Are the Least of It” Award-winning novelist Dorothy Allison will give her keynote address on “Storytelling: Lies are the least of it.”
Called “one of the finest writers of her generation” by the Boston Globe and “simply stunning” by the New York Times Book Review, Dorothy Allison is the best-selling author of Bastard out of Carolina–one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award.

Her novel “Cavedweller” became a national bestseller and NY Times Notable book of the year, and was adapted for the stage by Kate Moira Ryan and featured music by “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” composer, Stephen Trask.

LUNCHEON KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Albert Flynn DeSilver, the internationally published poet and writer, will be the featured speaker at the conference luncheon. DeSilver’s topic will be “From published writer to brilliant writer and beyond.”
In addition to his writing and poetry, including serving as Marin County’s very first Poet Laureate from 2008-2010, he is a speaker and workshop leader. His work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals worldwide, including ZYZZYVA. He is the author most recently of Beamish Boy: A Memoir, Letters to Early Street from La Alameda/University of New Mexico Press (2007), and “Walking Tooth & Cloud,” from French Connection Press in Paris (2007).

Karyn Fischer has been working with BookStop Literary Agency since the beginning of 2014. She joined the agency after working as a bookseller and book buyer for an independent bookstore, and after completing a number of publishing internships. Though she reads adult novels, her real passion is children’s and young adult fiction, particularly novels with strong voice and an engaging story that makes her want to stay up all night enraptured and/or crying into her tea. BookStop Literary Agency represents children’s book writers across all genres and age ranges. Our agents are especially drawn to fiction and non-fiction picture books, middle grade, and young adult manuscripts with richly drawn characters, and intriguing, well-written stories. BookStop’s agents enjoy reading quirky picture books, multicultural and historical stories, magical realism, smart mysteries, realistic contemporary stories, sci-fi and fantasy stories, and literary fiction.

Laurie McLean is the co-founder of Fuse Literary, the literary agency of the future. With virtual offices in California, New York, Chicago, Vancouver and Dallas, Fuse Literary blends the tried and true elements of traditional publishing with the bold new strengths of indie-publishing. At Fuse,Laurie specializes in adult genre fiction plus middle-grade and young adult children’s books. She looks for visceral writing, amazing world-building, relentless pacing and characters that jump off the page. Query her at and put “Pen to Published Request” in the subject line or it will be auto-rejected.oughley

Amy Cloughley is an agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates. Keeping with the agency’s unique legacy of The Reece Halsey Agency, she strives to represent the highest quality writing. Amy came to the agency in 2012 with a background in editing, writing, and marketing. You can also find her coaching writers via a Writer’s Digest course designed to help authors craft and strengthen their submission materials.Amy is looking for literary and commercial fiction, and has a special interest in mystery/suspense, near historical, and upmarket women’s fiction. She also seeks narrative non-fiction projects.

Download Full Schedule

Really, if your write and you live in Northern California, you don’t want to miss this.

Fringe of Marin: Still happening at Dominican of California April 2, 2016

March 29, 2016

Dominican University is celebrating the past, present and future of the performing arts with two great events. Join us for a day of music, dance and theater at Angelico Hall. All proceeds benefit the performing arts scholarships.

Fringe Festival Retrospective
2:00 p.m.
A panel discussion on the history of the Dramatic Arts
2016 Fringe of Marin One-Acts, including a dramatic reading by David Hirzel
Admission: $10.00

7:00 p.m.
A Musical Celebration featuring Alumni, Faculty, Staff, Students and the Community
Celebrating the 125 year history and beyond of the performing arts at Dominican University of California
Admission: $20.00

Paul Kantner Memorial: “So pick up the cry! Got to revolution!”

February 2, 2016

I was not aware that Paul died a few days ago. I’m a belated reader of the SF Chronicle, I get my news from the radio (PBS, thank you), and evidently this news was not considered nobit there from the SF Guardianewsworthy enough, what with Trump and the Iowa caucuses, Sika virus, and what-have-you.

First thing I did on learning this news, was of course go to google for confirmation. An had links to the Airplane singing “Volunteers” at Woodstock. I know, I’m aging myself here, but not that much.

“Volunteers” was a call to revolution. Well, it was a band with a song that at least made that call. “So pick up the cry! Got to revolution!” The song spoke to me, the idea spoke to me, and it continues to speak to me. “You are not going to be able to unring the bell!” (PK in an interview)

This nation has always been on the verge of a real democratic republic—the ideal envisioned in our constitution—but has always been misled by the corporate influence on the two “parties” that pretend to policies for the people, that are in fact for the extremes of wealth which wield the political power in today’s USA.

The call to revolution is directed at the naïve and idealistic. I know, I was one of them. Maybe I still am, but with the dimming eyesight of years I see that corporate interests have coopted revolution. Because they know that what follows is inevitably chaos, and have already laid the groundwork for reaping further profit from the chaos.

This is not to say that change is not worth fighting for. But seeing Kantner’s band playing that same song in suitcoats and ties at their induction to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame is a reminder that things change. The song is not the same.

So, Paul Kantner, thanks for the memories, they go back a long long way. And more recently, catching the band and the song from a boat out in the water in Sausalito, playing that old familiar song. It still made my heart beat a little bit faster. “So pick up the cry! Got to revolution!”

The Jungle Market: Panacea for a not-quite-lost world

January 3, 2016

Dateline: Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico

If your travels to the “Mexican Riviera” in Yucatan are in the line of “all-inclusive-resort,” then you are really missing something in the Jungle Market. This place is the heartfelt brainchild of former travel consultant Sandra, who saw in 1995 that the resort movement north from Playa Del Carmen and south from Cancun was about to swallow up the only bit of original community left on that gorgeous, reef-bound coast.

Her answer: The Jungle Market in (well, pretty far out along the outskirts of) the charming town of Puerto Morelos. Her own story has her convincing her husband that her dream of “community tourism” could thrive here and scraping up enough cash for a down payment and a handshake land contract on one hectare of (at the time) real jungle. The seller brought her to the end of a dirt trail and hacked a way into the bush with a machete. There she built the first of several palapas, engaged the friendship of some Mayan ladies, and with them set up shop.

Today, the road to the place is still unpaved, and the palm trees and crotons grow lush around the vendors booths and alfresco restaurants. The merchandise is of wide variety, much of it locally made and not found in other outdoor markets. The smiles are free, as are photo ops with a green parrot. My ongoing global search for the perfect chile relleno may have ended here. What the chile lacked in elegance was more than completed by the splendor of the outdoor setting.

Today’s market included a tenth-anniversary celebration of the Jungle Market’s grand opening. First, a little music. No mariachi here, no rock’n’roll, but a lively set by by a four-piece band from Veracruz. Then a few words by Sandra, la reina de Puerto Morelos. Next all the ladies we had just met in the vendors’ stalls were now in traditional Mayan dress on the paved plaza. A maypole dance, with the ladies of the audience invited onstage to join in, to be followed by all the men and children in a lively chicken dance.

When the dancing was done, Sandra asked everyone present to stand and join hands in a circle, and chant together three “oms.” The celebration had become elevated to a more spiritual level, a prayer for world peace that each could take home and spread wherever that may be.

You have to leave California to get there, though. The Jungle Market is only one of dozens of reasons to spend your vacation in Puerto Morelos.

The Jungle Market, is open Sundays only, 10:00-1:00, December 16 through April.
• “Original handmade crafts by the local women.”
• “Fabulous Mayan Food by the women. Delicious and safe to eat, so come have breakfast!
• “Bring your Family! Fun for everyone!”
Where: Puerto Morelos, Ixchel Jungle Spa Calle Dos.
Telephone: In Mexico (998) 2089148
More info:

JungleMarket Maypole

Christmas Eve 2015: A Coldwater Blessing

December 24, 2015

I was getting my hair (what there is of it) cut today, and engaged in idle conversation with my Vietnamese stylist Lori. I had just come back from a weeklong sailing adventure offshore. One of the Seaward’s stops that week included an overnight in a secluded cove on Santa Rosa Island. In the morning, some of the crew wanted to take the morning for a swim, regardless of how cold the water in the cove might be on this winter solstice day.

Not being one to watch another brave a coldwater bath while staying on deck and comfortably dry and relatively warm, I cut the legs off an old pair of jeans with a pocketknife and was first in the water. Cold, yes, but not unbearably so. 60º I’m told. I washed my hair in the sea with dish detergent in lieu of shampoo.

As I related this to Lori, she mentioned that when she was in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1988 with her sister and her father, that everyone in the camp got a single bucket of cold water each day for their entire ration, to be used as drinking, cooking, and bathing water. A single bucket per person. Not easy to live with, she said, but “We were happy.” Living under such restrained conditions was, for that family, life as it was to be lived for a time.

“That is the price of freedom,” she said. Made my seawater shampoo seem like a luxury item.

What we take for granted every single day and barely notice, is a precious thing, and not to be ignored or wasted. So here’s a thought for you this Christmas Eve, and maybe every evening throughout the year. When you think of the gifts and blessings you have received, are any of them as valuable as that bucket of cold water, once a day?

La Pastorela: A Christmas Legend brought to life by El Teatro Campesino

December 1, 2015

The Mission San Juan Bautista is stage and auditorium for the marvelous productions of the company Teartro de los Camposinos at the end of every year. There are two productions alternating annually: even numbered years feature La Virgen Del Tepeyac, and odd numbered years the current run of La Pastorela, starting the day after Thanksgiving and closing the weekend before Christmas. The program notes tell it simply: “These Christmas plays are a labor of love, involving the young and the old, veterans and newcomers, professional actors and nonprofessionals, in a gesture of spirt, tradition and faith by and for our community.” And, I might add, to be shared freely with the rest of us.

The wonder and charm of these productions is beyond description, but I’ll try. If you like forcefully dramatic singing from an intimate, in-the-round stage, if your eye delights in dance and color and costume, if you like your drama mixed with humor or the other way around, all presented in a historic building that has hosted miracles for two hundred years, you have come to the right place.

2015 marks the 50th year of the company, which arose originally in the fields of Delano as an ad hoc organization of the striking farmworkers during Cesar Chavez’ 1965 strike in Delano CA. They kept together, moved to San Juan Bautista, and by 1971 were staging annual performances of La Virgen in the mission.

The story of la pastorela is centuries old. This version has its origin San Luis Potosi, and was added to the repertoire in 1976, alternating annually with La Virgen. It tells the story of the shepherds (los pastoreles) witnessing the birth of Christ, but there is much more to this story than you might have thought. Luzbel (that is, Lucifer played by Alfredo Avila), anticipating the loss of his kingdom to the Messiah, appears in a vision and sends Satanas (Satan, played by Sedrick Cabrera) and all his cohorts—the seven deadly sins—to tempt and confuse them. While the hermit (Carlos Cortez) sleeps, they are all turned into sheep, but la pastorela Gila (Emily Morales) will not be tempted.

All this is performed from the raised central stage at the intersection of the mission’s nave and transept, by professional actor/singers supported by a vast chorus of family members young (the youngest of the devils, Greed, couldn’t have been older than seven) and old, drummers and musicians of all sorts, inventive lighting to make the miracles seem that much more miraculous. When Lucifer takes the stage, his power is palpable, but the winged San Miguel (Stephani Canedlaria), in a mighty battle scene between all the devils and all the angels, is that much more powerful. In the end, the devils and Lucifer himself are transformed, and go in turn to kneel before Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus.

It matters but little that the performance is almost entirely spoken and sung in Spanish. The program includes a comprehensive libretto in English which clearly states the action scene by scene, and all that is really needed is a careful reading before the lights go down. Then you can follow, as I did, the action, dance and drama, taking it all in wide-eyed and transported to another time, another place.

This is a work of art in community, and that community includes excellent lodging in town at La Posada Inn, across the street from the box office. The mission itself is surrounded by open fields reminiscent of its earlier days as an outpost along El Camino Real.

Weekends through December 20, 2015. Performances Thursday-Saturday 8:00, Sundays 4:00 and 7:30
Box Office: 831.623.2444. El Teatro Campesino, 705 Fourth Street, P.O. Box 1240, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045


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